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Ukraine-Russia standoff a global crisis – the world could look very different a year from now

Putin has wanted Ukraine since fall of Soviet Union: Lt. Col. Maginnis
The longer the Ukraine crisis stretches out, the more it resembles a worldwide Rorschach test.  It forces every nation to reveal its innermost thoughts and desires. 

Given America’s weakness and perceived decline under President Biden, and China’s and Russia’s new assertiveness, the inkblots on the Rorschach test have changed dramatically from just a year ago.

America’s allies no longer trust us, and our adversaries are emboldened. Friend and foe alike  are reassessing their interests and ambitions accordingly. Those inkblots have yet to settle in their new configuration and could re-form themselves even more so by next year at this time.

Russia wants to bring Ukraine back under its historic control, by intimidation and force if necessary. It’s an essential part of Putin’s lifelong ambition to restore the Russian empire and stop NATO’s advance. 

He’s also using the Ukraine crisis to drive a wedge between NATO members. Putin wants NATO to pledge they will not allow Ukraine to join. 

Ukraine wants its independence, and the ability to align with the west and join NATO. The Ukrainian military and people seem willing to fight for those goals, at least for now.

The United States wants Ukraine’s independence, too, and is willing to send weapons so Ukrainians can defend themselves … by themselves. President Biden has threatened sanctions on Russia if tanks move across the border, but he’s unlikely to get the rest of the world on board for crippling sanctions.  

Britain wants Ukraine out of Putin’s grasp and has doubled down on shipping lethal weapons to their military. Politically embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also planning to visit the security-embattled region this week.

If Putin miscalculates, his strong-arm tactics might stiffen NATO’s resolve against further Russian expansion. 

Countries which were formerly part the Soviet Union, but are now members of NATO, fear that if Russia succeeds with Ukraine, they’re next. While they expect their alliance partners to honor NATO treaty obligations and come to their aid, they’re not 100% sure all of them will.

Germans depend on Russian oil and gas to heat their homes, power their automobiles, and run their factories. Germany is currently in the midst of an energy crisis and has made clear it won’t risk jeopardizing its relationship with Russia, and its economy, over Ukraine.

France isn’t as dependent as Germany on Russian energy but is nevertheless unlikely to lift a finger to help Ukraine. The French president, with an eye to getting reelected, has said NATO is brain dead and called for a new European relationship with Russia.

China has now weighed in as well, siding with its new strategic partner, Russia. China insists Russia has a right to reclaim territories once part of Greater Russia, echoing China’s own claim over Taiwan.

Pundits the world over look at the Ukraine crisis as a standoff between Russia and Ukraine. Yes, a possible Russian invasion is the story of the day. 

But the Ukraine crisis is about a lot more – potentially even the reconfiguration of the world. The tectonic plates of geopolitics are shifting and where it ends no one can predict with certainty. There are just so many unknowns, starting with the NATO alliance.

Putin demands the rollback of NATO as the price for not invading Ukraine. So far Ukraine and NATO have refused. But even if Putin gets what he wants from Ukraine (and no one other than Putin himself knows what that is), will he be satisfied? 

If it comes to an invasion, will the Ukrainian army and people fight against Russia’s mighty military machine? If so, Ukraine’s defeat is all but certain, but the fighting could be protracted and involve significant civilian casualties. 

If Putin miscalculates, his strong-arm tactics might stiffen NATO’s resolve against further Russian expansion. He might provoke the hardening, not the weakening, of the alliance. 

On the other hand, if Putin is successful in bringing non-NATO member Ukraine back under Moscow’s control, will he risk going after NATO itself? Will he make a lightning strike against the small but historically Russian Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and carve them out of NATO ?

If so, what will NATO members do? Will they go to war with Russia? Or will they debate whether the treaty’s Article V requires them to send troops or merely hold consultations if a member state is attacked?

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